Tuesday 15 June 2021

'Driftwood by Starlight', my new poetry collection

Publication day has come, and Driftwood by Starlight, my first full-length poetry collection has arrived. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Peter Thabit Jones, my publisher.

The book can be ordered here from Peter's online shop at The Seventh Quarry Press. Susan Richardson has written these very generous words for the back-cover blurb ...


Those of you who are kind enough to visit or follow this blog will not be surprised to hear that while there are some more historical and archaeological poems, the natural world looms large. Most poems are set on or around the coast of Wales, Scotland and England (Cornwall especially, which features on the cover photograph by Laurence Hartwell). I hope some of you may decide to buy a copy and that you will find something particular that resonates with you. 



Wednesday 9 June 2021

#30DaysWild, Day 9, A Streak of Green


We sat outside, drinking our coffee, in the hope that we might see some butterflies. Apart from a couple of Soldier Beetles and two 7-spot Ladybirds in the long grass, there were few insects making their presence known. After a few minutes we noticed a couple of lively Holly Blues on the wing. 

I thought perhaps there might be some bees on the Ceanothus so went over to inspect, when a flutter of iridescence caught my eye in the form of a Green Hairstreak. I had never seen a Hairstreak of any description before our move to Suffolk nearly a decade ago, and have now seen three species, the Green and the Purple in our garden, and the White-letter in the Local Nature Reserve up the road.

My thanks to David for the top two photographs. I have recorded today's butterfly sightings on the Garden Butterfly Survey

 • • •

P.S. In case any of you were here earlier today, I had posted my updated Garden Species List, but something happened to the formatting, so I have withdrawn that post while I sort out the code. 

 P.P.S. No further False Widow sightings ... to date.

Tuesday 8 June 2021

#30DaysWild, Day 8, Wild or Not-So-Wild Flowers in the Garden


For the last ten years I have wondered what this small plant might be. I have made a quick search every so often but have failed to trace the species. I don't think I am entirely there now, but I feel I am heading in the right direction for this evening I finally discovered that it is a variety of Oxalis, a plant related to Wood Sorrel. As soon as I saw the word, something felt right. 

The plant in the photo above, with its distinctive five-petalled flowers and burgundy, almost shamrock-shaped leaves, grows outside our patio door between paving slabs. I have no idea how it came to take root in this spot, but it is always a joy to see. 

I am not entirely sure that it qualifies for a #30DaysWild post as it seems it can be bought in garden centres, but since I have found it described as 'weedy ground-cover', I think it can just squeak into my garden wildflower list ...

1. Daisy (20  February)

2. Violet (18 March)

3. Chickweed (19 March)

4. Dandelion (19 March)

5. Herb Robert (9 April)

6. Red Valerian (29 March)

7. Goosegrass (with tiny white flowers) (21 May)

8. Buttercup (21 May)

9. Red Dead Nettle (21 May)

10. Common Storksbill (24 May)

11. Red Clover (25 May)

12. Oxalis (8 June)

13. Cut-leaved Cranesbill (8 June)

14. Cat's Ear (8 June)

15. Ox-eye Daisy (8 June)

16. Meadow Salsify (16 June)

17. Smooth Sow-thistle (16 June)




 I wonder what will emerge next ...

Monday 7 June 2021

#30DaysWild, Day 7, 7 June 2021 ... First Brown Argus of the Season


It was lunch time and I was about to go inside when something with a glossy sheen about it caught the corner of my eye. My first guess was a Hairstreak, but then I saw the wings open to the familiar chocolate-brown of the Brown Argus (or, on occasions, the female Common Blue). The not-particularly-prominent mark in the centre of the forewing makes me favour the Brown Argus, though I think it is dubious whether the diagnostic 4th spot on the outer wing is in fact present in the photo below. Despite the proximity of the Blackfly in the photo above, Brown Argus larva feed off vegetation such as Rock Rose and particular varieties of Cranesbill and Stoksbill.

We had these butterflies in our homepatch for the first time last year, so we are glad they have returned, now that the unmown grassland of a garden has gone without a mow for well over a year. 

It was only when I uploaded the photograph that I noticed the bonus insect, which could be a female Thick-legged Flower Beetle. 

And just a quick update on butterfly species seen in the garden to date in 2021:

  1. Peacock
  2. Brimstone
  3. Holly Blue
  4. Orange Tip
  5. Small White
  6. Large White
  7. Green Hairstreak
  8. Brown Argus.

Sunday 6 June 2021

#30DaysWild 6 June, Day 6: A Tale of (at least) Two Blackbirds

The two photos above from our TrailCam show 'Star', the partially-leucistic female Blackbird, caught on camera. She is nearly always the star of our garden show as there must be particularly juicy worms in this corner of the garden! The orange arrow in the top photo shows the distinguishing mark that led to her 'name'.  

The two photos below show her mate, 'Mr Star', taken on different days, but with a bill full of food on each occasion.

The Blackbirds seemed to be foraging nearly all the time, and we began to have a hunch that there was almost certainly a 'Star Junior'. We became a bit fearful for the fledgling when the camera showed photos of potential predators in the form of the visiting cat and magpie you see below.

The foragaing continued apace, which we took to be a good sign. The adult male Blackbird kept his distance, often standing sentinel on top of a fir tree, but Star would wander round the grassy paths and come within a metre of us if we were sitting on the patio.

It seems the frantic hunt for food continued on into the night. The photo above, taken at 03.16 hrs yesterday morning, seems to show a Blackbird bill looking up at something in the air.

We have at last been 'introduced' to Star Junior, a single sleek and healthy-looking semi-fledgling. We have watched mother and young hopping in tandem round the grassy paths. We have seen Star's offspring fly into a low branch and we have watched it 'flop', with feathers all spread out, on the decking. Each day, and almost each hour, brings more independence. I did not like to disturb the 'new arrival' by clicking my camera (which always 'pings' when switched on) while it was spreadeagled in the sunshine, but I hope soon to be able to post a photograph, providing the latest bird on the block stays around a little longer.

Saturday 5 June 2021

#30DaysWild, 5 June ... a Butterfly at the Beach


There are some advantages in living close to the container port of Felixstowe ... and one of these must surely be the fact that it is possible at this time of year to see Painted Ladies as they fly into land after their long migrations. The photograph above was taken this evening at about 18.45 hrs. It was fairly sunny and mild. We saw four of these beautiful butterflies in total, a 300% increase on our total Painted Lady sightings for 2020.

Friday 4 June 2021

#30DaysWild, 3rd and 4th June, False Widow Alert

I'm running a bit behind already, but never mind. I wonder what you make of my spider discoveries! I have posted the bulbous creature in the two top photos and the thin skeletal one in the two lower ones on iSpot, and will see if folk are able to confirm my guesses of False Widow (above) and moulting Harvestman (below). Both were seen in our garden on 3rd June, the top spider at the entrance to a cavity in our brickwork. 

If you can help with either of these IDs, do leave a comment. I will keep you posted. 



#30DaysWild, 4th June - I checked iSpot. 

It seems I am no further forward with the photo immediately above, but three iSpotters have pretty much confirmed my hunch that the top photos do indeed show a False Widow ... in the cavity wall of our home. This is not quite the #30DaysWild I was expecting!

Wednesday 2 June 2021

2nd June 2021: #30DaysWild, Day 2



I have three garden sightings to report so far today (and a fourth, though I was not the one to see it).

[1] My first Small Copper of the year, which you see above.

[2] A bee flying in and out of one of our insect houses, despite the ant invasion. I failed to photograph the bee, though you can see the ants making their presence felt in the photo below, taken a few days ago. I hope the bee will prove to be a Leaf-cutter, which is what we had last year. 

[3] The blackbirds were making loud (?alarm) calls last night at dusk. We failed to see evidence of a magpie, jay or cat ... but this morning Star the female was perching in front of a rotund and fluffy semi-fledgling. No wonder Star has been such an active hunter-gatherer recently. 

... and ...

[4] from David, the first 2021 sighting of a Red Damselfly in the garden.  


Hard to tell if there are signs yet of leaf or bee!


Ant invasion!

I wonder what you have been doing or finding for Day 2 of #30DaysWild ...


Tuesday 1 June 2021

1st June 2021: #30DaysWild, Day 1


I have filled in my #30DaysWild placemat. The day certainly warmed up later on; but unlike yesterday, there were few butterflies about. 

Star, the female Blackbird, was much in evidence. She seems to like the grassy path that snakes around our micro-meadow garden, and we often see her leaping for insects. We have a profusion of craneflies.